The only benefit in being on pace to lose 106 games is a higher draft pick which is the Chicago White Sox trajectory. Typically a team that loses 105+ games often gets the first overall pick, but as the saying goes “Misery loves company,” and boy, do the White Sox have plenty of company. The Baltimore Orioles are on pace to lose 116 games this year (!!!) and have the inside track picking first in 2019. Kansas City is ahead of the White Sox to pick second overall as they are on track to lose 112 games (!!). Choosing third would be the White Sox, and following them would be Miami as the Marlins are staring at a 100-loss season.
That’s a lot of bad, and hopefully, for our sanity, the White Sox don’t lose 106 games in 2018. For those that care a great deal where the White Sox will pick in 2019, you have options on tracking who some of the top prospects in next year’s class. Perhaps none better than following the USA National College team. An all-star team with the best Freshman and Sophomore talent from this past season, Team USA is an excellent early test for both hitters and pitchers. Since Nick Hostetler took over as Director of Amateur Scouting, the White Sox have selected a few players from the USA squad.
2017: Nick Madrigal, Steele Walker, and Konnor Pilkington
2016: Jake Burger, Luis Gonzalez, and Evan Skoug
2015: Zack Burdi
2014: Carson Fulmer, and Zack Collins
Here are five players that I think are worth following this summer as 2019 is shaping up to be a very strong college hitting class.
Adley Rutschman, Catcher – Oregon State
If you watched the College World Series, then you’ve seen what Oregon State catcher Adley Rutschman can do. The switch-hitting Rutschman deservingly won Outstanding Player as he set a College World Series record 17 hits while driving in 13 RBIs. Compared to Joey Bart, who was selected in this year’s draft second overall, Rutschman is not as good defensively, but still, possess above average skills across the board. He’s athletic to move well side-to-side and receives pitches low in the zone well to steal strikes. The noticeable differences are that Bart has a better throwing arm and calls his pitches. Well, many in the industry believe Bart has 65 to 70-grade defense, Rutschman is 55 to 60 grade.
Hey @whitesox draft the switch hitting catch Adley Rutschman next year or I will be furious pic.twitter.com/xxNtSkgiXi
— Chuck Naso (@ChuckNaso) June 28, 2018
It’s Rutschman’s hitting ability that jumps off the page. In 2018, Rutschman’s strikeout rate was 13.3% while his walk rate was 17.6%. His slash line was .408/.505/.628 with 22 doubles, three triples, nine home runs, and 83 RBIs – a new Oregon State season record. All of these numbers will be difficult to reach in 2019 without Nick Madrigal, Cadyn Greiner, and Trevor Larnach hitting in front of Rutschman. Once he joins Team USA if Rutschman can continue to demonstrate his advanced approach at the plate while hitting for some power with the wood bat the hype will continue to rise for him.
Andrew Vaughn, First Baseman – Cal
The 2018 Golden Spikes Award winner, Andrew Vaughn has the best power in this 2019 draft class. Generating his power from a solid lower base, Vaughn mashed 23 home runs in 2018. Even better, Vaughn had a ridiculous 7.4% strikeout rate and walked at a clip of 18.1%. While Rutschman led the PAC-12 in batting average, Vaughn finished second posting a jaw-dropping slash line of .402/.531/.819 (!). Watching Team USA vs. Chinese Taipei on Friday, Vaughn displayed some of his power in-game with a very loud foul ball that traveled 400+ feet but just missed the foul pole. He did hit a line drive double in the left field gap and finished the night 1-for-3 with an HBP. Last night, Vaughn hit his second double and went 2-for-5.
You guys want to see some #SwingsOfBeauty? May I present to you, Andrew Vaughn, of @CalBaseball and the @USABaseballCNT pic.twitter.com/g0p1ZNWKJW
— Josh Norris (@jnorris427) June 30, 2018
What is working against Vaughn is that he’s a first baseman. To be a top pick in 2019, Vaughn will need to display his tremendous power this summer and post similar numbers in 2018 during the college season as his best attribute is the bat. If he can repeat 2018, Vaughn will receive some buzz to be a Top-10 pick, if not higher.
Matt Wallner, Outfielder – Southern Miss
Matt Wallner caught my eye during the 2017 Regionals when Illinois-Chicago was giving Southern Miss a hard time. Wallner as a Freshman hit .336/.463/.655 with 19 home runs which lead to both Baseball America and D1Baseball giving him Freshman of the Year honors. Not exactly the path Wallner thought he would be growing up in Minnesota and initially had a baseball scholarship to play at North Dakota University. However, North Dakota disbanded their baseball program before Wallner could play, and Southern Miss recruited him.
B5| MATT WALLNER HITS HIS SECOND GRAND SLAM OF THE SEASON AND HIS SECOND IN TWO WEEKENDS! ?
Southern Miss 5 Rice 2 pic.twitter.com/bhCa0SS0pJ
— Southern Miss Baseball (@SouthernMissBSB) April 1, 2018
That stroke of luck has benefited both Wallner and Southern Miss. His batting average and on-base percentage improved in 2018 while the slugging dipped as Wallner hit .351/.474/.618 with 13 doubles, 16 home runs, and 67 RBIs. His strikeout rate was 19.2% which is higher than his walk rate of 17.3%. If Wallner can reduce the number of strikeouts in 2019, that will be the type of progress that scouts across the league will give him higher marks. What Wallner does possess other than good hitting skills is an elite arm at times pitching out of the bullpen for Southern Miss hitting 95 mph. That type of arm plays very well in the outfield corners. After two games, Wallner is 2-for-7 with a walk for Team USA.
Josh Jung, Third Baseman – Texas Tech
More known for his odd routine of talking to his bat before stepping into the batter’s box, Josh Jung had a terrific season for the Red Raiders helping lead them to the College World Series. In 2018, Jung hit .392/.491/.639 with 17 doubles, six triples, 12 home runs, and 80 RBIs. His strikeout rate was 10.5% and walked at a clip of 12.9%. Jung also had a productive College World Series hitting 6-for-14 against Florida and Arkansas.
Like Vaughn, Texas Tech 3B Josh Jung is hitting the ball well today. Four hard hit balls thus far but, he only has one hit to show for it. pic.twitter.com/iVpai5gOko
— Burke Granger (@burkegranger) July 1, 2018
While the bat is impressive, I enjoyed watching Jung play defense at the hot corner. Strong arm paired with quick instincts, Jung has made some highlight plays robbing hitters of extra-base hits down the line. Committing only eight errors in 172 chances, I like Jung more than I did Alec Bohm or Jonathan India defensively at third base. After three games with Team USA, Jung is 3-for-14 with two walks, one strikeout, and two RBIs.
Bryson Stott, Shortstop – UNLV
A player that took a big step forward from his Freshman year, UNLV’s Bryson Stott impressed in 2018 hitting 30 doubles with a slash line of .365/.442/.556. He displayed some speed and an ability to steal bases, but Stott worked on getting the ball in play more often. Cutting his strikeout rate from 10.1% his Freshman year to 6.3% this season. The walk rate also bumped up from 9.3% to 11.2%. Even better, Stott had success with wood bats hitting .352/.442/.451 in the Northwoods League last summer.
Defensively, Stott has the athleticism to stick at shortstop ranging well to his left and displaying a strong arm. He doesn’t have plus-power which you would like to see from a possible Top 10 candidate shortstop. If he can hit a few more of those doubles to homers in 2019, you’ll hear plenty about Stott come next June.
Passing on Andrew Vaughn, a 1st baseman with a top three pick.
Instead I will offer
Greg Jones, SS, Cary (Cary, NC)
Ht/Wt: 5’11”/185 B/T: S/R
“Jones’s calling card is his elite speed, sub-4.0 second home-to-first times from both sides of the plate. sophomore eligible pick.
A good season moves him into the top 10.
1) He was a true Freshman in 2018, so I don’t believe he’s eligible for 2019 MLB Draft.
2) Dude had a 28.4% strikeout rate in 2018.
eligible by age.
“already 19 years old and would be draft eligible again as a sophomore in 2019).
He will be 21 and three months.
Josh, what’s your take on Casey Martin? I know he’s gotten some early-early-early hype for next year, but he vaguely reminds me of Jonathan India: tools to maybe play short, but probably more at home at third, but comes with the hang up that he doesn’t have the size/power potential most look for in third basemen.
Also, great article. I’m not much for really organizing and long term planning in my day to day life, but damn if I don’t enjoy some draft forecasting.
I like Casey Martin a lot, but I believe he was a true Freshman this season which means he would be a 2020 MLB Draft target.
I’ll be watching a lot of Arkansas baseball next spring because they have some great hitters on that squad. I’m expecting them to return to the College World Series next year.
Sox signed Madrigal.
*Fulmer was technically Laumann’s last draft pick.
Until Rutschman proves he can hit with wood, I’m all about CJ Abrams.
Tooled-up like Jo Adell, LHH and plays SS.
Rutschman playing for Team USA this summer. So we’ll see.